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Rare instrument protected for future thanks to investment work

A unique musical instrument which is the largest of its kind in Great Britain has been protected for the future thanks to £80,000 of investment.

The Bournville Carillon, which sits atop Bournville Village Primary School in Bournville, dates back 117 years and is made up of 48 bells played from a keyboard.

It was installed by chocolate maker George Cadbury in 1906 and is managed by Bournville Village Trust (BVT), which George founded to manage Bournville.

To protect the much-loved instrument for future generations and to improve safety, BVT has invested £80,000 in significant structural repairs and maintenance.

It had to appoint specialist contractors Taylor’s Bell Foundry to remove some of the bells which are made of copper and tin and weigh a staggering 17.5 tons combined.

Bally Guru, Surveyor Project Manager at BVT, said: “An important part of our work is to invest and protect the unique heritage found in the buildings and spaces in Bournville Village, ensuring they meet the needs of communities today and in the future.

“We worked in partnership with both the Friends of Bournville Carillon and Bournville Village Primary School to plan the repair work, which has been challenging given the construction of the building and specialist equipment needed. However, it’s essential not only for protecting the Carillon for the community to enjoy but to ensure the highest levels of safety.”

Matthew Rogers, Operations Manager at Bournville Village Primary School, said: “It’s really special to have the Bournville Carillon as part of our school and certainly makes us unique.  It has been fantastic to work with BVT, Taylor’s Bell Foundry and the Friends of Bournville Carillon to ensure it is protected and well maintained so that our children and the local community can enjoy this beautiful piece of history and heritage for generations to come.”

Trevor Workman, Bournville Carillonneur and Chair of the Friends of Bournville Carillon, said: “Thanks to George Cadbury’s vision and generosity, the Bournville Carillon is one of the finest instruments of its kind in the world, but primarily it is a special amenity central to the Bournville community. It has been a great privilege and pleasure to have had responsibility for playing our magnificent Carillon and publicising Bournville heritage all over the world for the past 58 years.”

The Bournville Carillon is played for local and national commemorations and celebrations throughout the year, with the most significant being ‘Carols on the Green’ on Christmas Eve. It accompanies a vast crowd singing carols and the event raises funds for charities, including local hospices.

Whilst the major and vital structural repair project has been in progress, a project to renovate and restore the Clavier (playing keyboard) has also been completed and funded at a cost of more than £30,000 by the Friends of Bournville Carillon.

George Cadbury was inspired to install a carillon in Bournville following a visit to Belgium in 1906, when he heard the famous carillon at Bruges.

He ordered 22 bells from the foundry of John Taylor & Co and in 1906, they were installed above the, then new, village school.  Only one of the original 22 bells remains but other bells have been added throughout the years.

Bournville Village Trust was founded by George Cadbury in 1900 and is a values-led charitable trust working to create and sustain communities where people can thrive.

It’s one of the Midlands longest-serving independent trusts and manages estates, provides homes, delivers community-support services and commercial activities.

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